Your D-I-Y Guide to the Hong Kong Visa Process

Hong Kong Visa Handbook 2024

First written in 1996, I am greatly pleased to bring the Hong Kong Visa Handbook back as a 100% free resource for everyone seeking to secure a Hong Kong residence visa or to upgrade their HKSAR immigration status generally. It has been over 25 years since the Handbook was first published on the internet and in the passage of time technologies have marched on – allowing the original tome to be completely re-written and brought bang up to date using video, audio and screen cast presentations. Also, new to the Handbook are templates for your use and complete checklists to be used in working up your application and to help ImmD understand your case bundle after it has been submitted.

Watch Presentation…
Stephen D. Barnes, Hong Kong



Free & Easy Access to the HKSAR

The overwhelming majority of people are granted a visa upon arrival at Hong Kong. Those who arer’t must apply in advance.

This Chapter sets out what you have to demonstrate to be admitted as a visitor to Hong Kong, discusses the activity permitted under visitor status and explains how to go about securing an extension to your visitor visa from the officials down in Immigration Tower.

For those frequent visitors to Hong Kong, especially those coming on business, there is the option to ‘super charge’ your visitor visa status; this is discussed in the section on the Travel Pass

Employment Visas

Taking Up Employment in Hong Kong

You may not travel to the HKSAR as a visitor if you intend to:

– Engage in work or employment activities, or

– Receive work or employment related training.

You have to obtain an employment visa prior to travelling to the HKSAR.

This Chapter lays bare the employment visa ‘approvability test’ and sets out what ImmD are looking for in their assessment of human capital when applying immigration policy behind the grant of employment visas. It also discusses how to ‘get around’ the “apply before you arrive rule”.

Investment Visas

Investment Visas for Startups & Entrepreneurs

Each year approximately 1500 people are granted a visa to live in Hong Kong on the basis of their investment in an operating business or having committed capital in denominated investment assets under the ‘investment for residence’ scheme.

This Chapter looks at the business investment visa ‘approvability test’, one of the most onerous challenges in the Hong Kong immigration process, and provides a detailed examination of its discrete elements.

Family Visas

Arrangements for Accompanying Family Members

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18 secure dependant visas when they accompany their principal visa holding sponsor to Hong Kong. These visas are available for all legal dependents for the majority of visa types available in the HKSAR – and come complete with work privileges!

Things get a little more complicated where there exists a ‘common law’ marriage or where a relationship is longstanding but not otherwise legally recognised in some way. This chapter details the visa path to be travelled.

Long Stay & Permanent Residence

Removing All Conditions of Stay & Becoming a ‘Hong Kong Belonger’

Once you have accumulated 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong, under a qualifying immigration status all throughout, you may apply for one of two immigration status’ depending on whether or not you have taken Hong Kong as your place of permanent residence.

Applying to remove your conditions of stay (Unconditional Stay) effectively divests you of the need to have a continuing rationale for being in Hong Kong (your visa type) and relieves you of the burden of traipsing down the Immigration Tower every so often to extend your visa or seek ImmD’s consent to change employers.

On the other hand, if you have taken Hong Kong as your place of permanent residence and are prepared to make a declaration to this effect, you can seek to verify your eligibility for a Permanent HK ID card and secure the “Rolls Royce” of all of Hong Kong’s immigration status’ – the Right of Abode (defacto Citizenship albeit without the right to a HKSAR passport).

Special Programmes

Visa Schemes To Complement Our General Employment Policy

Since the hand back of sovereignty in 1997 specific demographic trends have emerged and ImmD have been quick to develop immigration programmes in response.

The first relates to the ever-closer integration between the economies of the HKSAR and the Mainland. Mainland talents and professionals are deemed to be a fine source of human capital to help keep Hong Kong’s economy competitive To this end, the Admission of Mainland Talents & Professionals Scheme was introduced to facilitate the ease of transfer of such people able to make a positive contribution to Hong Kong’s economic development.

Secondly, recognizing that Hong Kong is in competition for very high level talent with most other developed economies globally, the Quality Migrants Admission Scheme was introduced to attract ‘top notch’ talents, seeking to steal them away from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK (et al!).

Thirdly the Working Holiday Scheme has gone from strength to strength in recent years with the addition of several ‘new’ countries not least the UK whose nationals get a one year ‘anything goes’ (almost!) ‘work for anyone’ ‘work for as long as you like’ visa to holiday in Hong Kong and work at the same time.

Most recently has been the Admission Scheme for Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents (May 2015) which is still bedding itself in.

Refusals & Appeals

What Do You Do if Your Application is Rejected?

Cases get denied for very specific reasons and the trick is to understand in advance the likely strengths and weaknesses, and submit the application illustrating those strengths and downplaying the weaknesses.

However, it is a fact of life that more than 100,000 principal visa applications are submitted to ImmD each year and only about 30% of them get actually approved.

This is not to say that you only have generally a 30% chance of approval, nothing could be further from the truth. But it does illustrate that great care needs to be taken in each and every visa application.

But if the worst outcome has materialized, this Chapter will help you understand your options and guide you in the process of seeking a Reconsideration or the further, not often traveled, avenue of ‘final’ appeal.


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